Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, here talking about the team acquiring reliever Jose Veras from Houston, continues to fortify the roster for an anticipated World Series run. (Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News)
Detroit — The Tigers are taking no chances with their championship hopes, and wasting no time. And that’s exactly why Dave Dombrowski takes more chances, and waits for no one.
The man is maniacal, in a good way. Whatever you think of the Tigers’ World Series chances, there’s no ambiguity about their ambition. Mike Ilitch isn’t sitting back and accepting the fate of the baseball gods and neither is Dombrowski, and they just significantly boosted their odds.
With All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta likely to get suspended, Dombrowski grabbed one of the best young fielding shortstops available, Jose Iglesias. With holes in his bullpen, he went and grabbed another solid, veteran arm, Jose Veras.
The Tigers rolled again Wednesday, blasting the Nationals, 11-1, for their ninth victory in 10 games. They’re 61-45 and in first place, but like I said, they’re taking no chances. The Indians keep pushing, and that adds to the urgency.
Dombrowski has turned the trade deadline into his personal shopping spree, and it’s not about collecting average Joes, but the best Joses available. When the 4 p.m. deadline struck Wednesday, I imagine Dombrowski looked forlornly at his cell phone, double-checking for one last call. If necessity is the mother of invention, Dombrowski is the crafty father. Nobody shops more diligently and shrewdly for necessities, and the Tigers had serious necessities.
Peralta might have played his final game with the Tigers, with the commissioner reportedly poised to levy suspensions in the Biogenesis drug scandal. He could get 50 games, and with only 56 remaining, that’d push him up against the postseason. In a soft tone after the game, Peralta made it clear he doesn’t want to leave.
“I don’t feel nervous, but I worry a little bit because I want to play every day here,” Peralta said. “I love being here in Detroit.”
The Tigers didn’t have many options, and clearly got indications the decision was drawing near. So Dombrowski did what he does, and just past midnight Wednesday morning, he was standing in front of the media, smiling as he discussed the trade of prime outfield prospect Avisail Garcia to the White Sox and reliever Brayan Villarreal to the Red Sox for Iglesias.
“We traded a real good young player for another real good young player, but at a position we needed right now, or potentially could need,” Dombrowski said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty (with Peralta), which concerned me, especially with our scenario of trying to win a championship.”
Bingo. The Tigers are being proactive in ways most teams wouldn’t, because Ilitch’s World Series push is relentless. Dombrowski always is willing to deal prospects, a bold strategy I’m amazed more teams don’t employ.
Even if Peralta were eligible for the postseason, Dombrowski was taking no chances. And what about the possible delicate choice should the Tigers win the division: Iglesias or Peralta after a 50-game layoff?
“I’m not getting into choices at this point,” Dombrowski said. “But if you ask me, would I feel comfortable with (Iglesias) being our shortstop? The answer would be yes. This guy is special defensively.”
The Tigers’ semi-stunning move was lauded around baseball, although the White Sox (Garcia) and Red Sox (Jake Peavy) also got what they wanted. The difference is, the Tigers got what they needed.
Iglesias, 23, already is considered a premier fielder, and was hitting a surprising .330 with the Red Sox. He certainly doesn’t have the punch of Peralta, who’s hitting .307 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. But the deal serves multiple purposes, fitting with Dombrowski’s recent headline deadline moves. Last year, he added Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, who filled holes in the run to the World Series. The year before, he landed Doug Fister.
Iglesias’ arrival means Peralta could accept a suspension in good conscience, instead of appealing to keep playing this season. As terrific as Peralta has been offensively, he’s limited in the field, and Iglesias is anything but limited. With his range and glove, he provides defensive protection on the left side, with third baseman Miguel Cabrera battling various muscle strains.
Give Dombrowski credit for persistence. He said the Red Sox called a few weeks ago, knowing the Tigers might need a shortstop. Dombrowski played it cool, then struck quickly.
And this wasn’t a money move made possible by Ilitch’s bankroll. In fact, Iglesias makes considerably less than Peralta, who’s due to become a free agent. So is Infante, and rather than count on big-bank replacements, Dombrowski plucked a promising piece for now and the future.
These were clever, aggressive preemptive strikes by Dombrowski and his staff. The Tigers couldn’t wait for young arms to develop in the bullpen, so here comes Veras. Peralta could be gone and the infield doesn’t exactly vacuum ground balls, so here comes Iglesias.
In the span of two days, Dombrowski addressed Jim Leyland’s two nagging concerns.
“I think Dave’s biggest attribute is, he’s not afraid,” Leyland said. “People can agree with deals, disagree with deals, but they can’t ever say he sat on his haunches and didn’t do something.”
The Tigers couldn’t afford to be afraid of the impending hammer. Something had to be done, and with Dombrowski, something almost always gets done.